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Album Review

Brendon Urie: The one man show is back.

That's right: Panic! At the Disco’s frontman (and only man these days) has just released his "band's" sixth studio album, Pray for the Wicked. Fueled by falsetto vocals, combined with Urie's undeniable penchant for fusing pop, rock and passion, his latest effort zigzags wildly between optimism and cynicism, clear-eyed realism about the moment and a nostalgic longing for the past.

It feels lighter and more upbeat at certain points than Panic!'s recent predecessors. That said, we've still got quite a few issues to navigate here as we unpack Brendon Urie's often dense and meaning-full lyrics.

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In “High Hopes,” Urie recognizes the need to stay positive while looking ahead to his future: “Had to have high hopes, high hopes for a living/Shooting for the stars when I couldn’t make a killing/Didn’t have a dime but I always had a vision.”

In “Roaring 20s” and “Dying in LA,” Urie describes some of the difficulties he's faced while pursuing fame. In the latter he realizes that the celebrity life isn't all it's cracked up to be: “Riches all around/You’re walking/Stars on the ground/You start to believe it/ … But nobody knows you now.” And in “King Of The Clouds,” we hear something of a spiritual longing to be free from the earthly struggles that weigh him down: “And I fade, elevate from the Earth/Far away to a place where I’m free from the weight/This old world.”

Likewise, “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” distantly recalls the Eagles' "Hotel California" in its complex critique of the music world's dark side. It begins, "All my life been hustling and tonight is my appraisal/'Cause I'm a hooker selling songs and my pimp's a record label." Urie uses that provocative metaphor to describe the self-objectification that's often required to achieve success. He's also aware of how isolating achieving your dreams can be: "And if you never know who you can trust, then trust me, you'll be lonely."

"Roaring 20s" likewise mistrusts the self-congratulatory entertainment world where everyone earns accolades and applause: "Oscars and Emmys and Grammys/Everyone here is a trophy/And I'm sipping bourbon, the future's uncertain/The past on the pavement below me" (the latter line likely being a reference to the Hollywood Walk of Fame).

In “Dancing’s Not a Crime,” a man wants to commit to one woman: “Just gimme your vows/… Baby just tell me now/…’Cause I just wanna be/Your boyfriend.” That said …

Objectionable Content

… he seems to be lacking in the trust department, as he warns his partner, “But darlin’ don’t be throwing shade now/Don’t call me Saint California if you’re at another altar.”

"Hey Look Ma, I Made" is chockfull of spiritual allusions (offering a thematic link to the album's title), but it's hard to tell how much Urie is being sarcastic and how much he's being literal when he sings lines such as, "In the garden of evil/I'm gonna be the greatest/In a golden cathedral/I'll be praying for the faithless/And if you lose, boo hoo."

More spiritual references turn up in worldly contexts on songs such as “Say Amen (Saturday Night)" and “One of the Drunks,” where we hear, "Night’s young, searching for a feeling/Big fun, dancing with the demons/Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit/Grips you like a pistol/Wet the whistle." And in “Say Amen (Saturday Night)," he seems to give up on trying to let go of his bad habits: “If I had one more day/I could be better, but baby/… Swear to God I ain’t ever gonna repent.”

More disillusionment fills "Roaring 20s," where Urie admits (with a marijuana-laced metaphor) that he no longer knows himself (or others) “This is my roaring, roaring 20s, I don’t/Even know me, roll me like a blunt, cause I wanna go home.” He expresses similar sentiments on “Dying In LA” and “King of the Clouds.”

“The Overpass” tells the story of a young woman who’s apparently willing to leave someone who still loves her, trading that relationship for a rendezvous with another man: “Someone still loves you/Meet me, meet me/At the overpass, at the overpass/Sketchy girls and lipstick boys.”

Bittersweet "Old Fashioned" seems to imply that life peaked at 17 and has been downhill ever since: "Dead and gone so long, 17 so gone/ … It's the false side of hope where believers concede/And there's only memories, when it's over." Then Urie adds, "So pour out some liquor, make it an old-fashioned/Remember your youth, in all that you do." Recalling good times from one's youth can be a good thing, of course; but in this context, it seems as if the singer's almost despairing of ever enjoying life the way he did when he was young.

The profanely titled track "(F--- A) Silver Lining" uses about a dozen f-words. A couple of other songs include a stray use of the s-word and "d--n."

Summary Advisory

Artistically speaking, this may be one of the best Panic! At the Disco albums. Sure, it’s not the old Panic! (for anyone who tuned in back when the band was actually still a band). But Brendon Urie flexes his considerable musical muscle on this one-man album.

We also hear more moments and messages of positivity here than perhaps any previous Panic! effort: Continue to be optimistic, reach for your dreams, learn who your friends are, and seize the moment.

Still, that whole “living in the moment” thing can get pretty messy. Urie makes references to drinking alcohol (and a lot of it), rolling blunts (even if only metaphorically) and enjoying the “do whatever you want” moments of your youth—all combined with some harsh language and odd spiritual allusions here and there.

And while he admirably seems to see fame's potential pitfalls pretty clearly, at times that perspective leads to disillusionment and cynicism, too—attitudes that have often permeated previous Panic! albums and do so again here.

Plot Summary

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Debuted at No. 1.

Record Label

DCD2, Fueled by Ramen




June 22, 2018

On Video

Year Published



Kristin Smith

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